Friday, October 28, 2011

A dozen miles to fame and fortune

All 12 divisions meet at Woodbine on Saturday, Oct. 29 for the Breeders Crown finals and we have scrutinized the elim races to come up with many great reasons to bet the series.

Aside from the potential prices on the plays we are supporting, if you are playint throuth TwinSpires and wagering on the early Pick 4 (races 4 through 7 with a $100,000 guarantee) and late Pick 4 (races 9 through 12), you will have a million TwinSpires Club Points on the line in each with the Hit-It-And-Split-It competition.

Our picks have now been circulated all over the cybersphere, in print and through word of mouth, so why not add them here on the exclusive blog for the events, the only regular follower of the eligibles' performances since the Hambletonian.

Open Mare Trot

Race 1 presents the older femme trotters, a group that hardly has enough action during the year, as do other divisions. Still, these battleaxes can fly and with the retirement of Buckeye St Pat, hands down one of the division’s best and the defending champion, this race becomes more fascinating to wager upon. We will be backing Jersey As. She is consistent, competitive and always poised to challenge. Post 8 may be the best place for her to launch an upset attack. Exotic material: 6-Action Broadway, 9-Autumn Escapade and10- Frenchfrysnvinegar.

Two-Year-Old Filly Trot

 Don’t look for an upset, key the 5, Win Missy B. She had a week off (did not have to race in elims) and has gotten as hot as they can get coming up to this race. She may be a short second choice but she has what it takes to take down the big favorite. Exotic material: 2-Circles, 4-Check Me Out, 7-Miss Paris.

Two-Year-Old Filly Pace  

Mid-season, Pirouette Hanover was poised to dominate the division. However, after losing the Champlain in early September she took a well-deserved rest. Training into this event she looks great and because she stepped back from the scene we are promised a decent price on her with her regular pilot, Ron Pierce, ready to rumble from post 3. Exotic material: 5-Economy Terror, 6-Shelliscape, 7-Big McDeal.  

Two-Year-Old Colt Pace  

In his elim, Hurrikane Kingcole was dynamic, especially from post 9. We picked him for that affair because he was primed to get to the “Crown” and he was ready to roll on his favorite oval. Trouble ensued; he suffered interference 11 lengths behind in the stretch and closed faster than a cheap outlet store to get third at 13-1. From post 5 this week we support a mighty upset. Exotic material: 4-A Rocknroll Dance, 5-Hillbilly Hanover, 10-I Fought Dalaw.  

Two-Year-Old Colt Trot  

From Above was scratched from the final, earning the berth by the skin of his teeth in a poor mile that indicated something was wrong after two great wins. Trainer Greg Peck took him out of the final and now we have another kind of contest. Dan Daley’s Royal Shyster jumped uncharacteristically at the start of the race and still made the final. He draws post 8 but that won’t matter if Daley gets a sharp start that doesn’t take too much out of him. He is a rank outsider, for sure, but it could be Daley’s night with his best change for a Crown win yet. Exotic material: 3-Uncle Peter, 4-Possess The Will, 6-Appomattox.  

Open Mare Pace  

We loved the elim mile traveled by Maureen Rocks and we adore her leaving from post 1 in the final. She held second after pulling to be first over at the half, chasing the favorite with aplomb. Expect a giant mile and a more severe challenge to the obvious favorite, the winner of last week’s sole elim for this division. Exotic material: 3-Chancey Lady, 6-On The Glass, 8-Rock N Soul.  

San Pail, the dominating older trotter in North America has to contend with two imports that have traveled far to contest this division. But we are going to go with an upset here, banking on Lucky Jim having his way from post 7, staying flat and taking advantage of what might be some nifty duels ignited by the “visitors.” As well, this may be the best price you will get in years on this stalwart trotter. Exotic material: 2-San Pail, 5-Rapide Lebel, 6-Hot Shot Blue Chip.  

Three-Year-Old Filly Pace  

Last week in the second elim for this division we won with Rocklamation, beating the once-super filly See You At Peelers. That one finished so badly she is not here. None of this matters because 2-Drop The Ball, cannot be denied greatness. A dead-on choice, perhaps odds-on, it is her race to lose and we don’t think she will lose it. Exotic material: 3-Rocklamation, 4-Krispy Apple, 6-Monkey On My Wheel.  

Three-Year-Old Colt Trot  

This is as simple as it was in one of last week’s elims: 5-Manofmanymissions wins if he doesn’t break stride. The only colt to beat him straight up is also here and he could do it again but only taking advantage of some other mistake that may happen. Either way, Manofmanymissions should win the divisional championship even though he blew the Hambletonian by running. Exotic material: 1-Spectator K, 2-Luckycharm Hanover, 8-Daylon Magician.  

Three-Year-Old Filly Trot  

We will stand alone with our prime contender in this race but we have done so before to the tune of great profits so here we go again. We are staying with our elim pick, 10-Pantholops, empowered by the fact that she earned a berth considering the trouble she ensued in the elim. Granted, she has her work cut out for her in this mile but going against the grain in this situation could pay off for such courage. Exotic material: 1-Lady Andover, 4-Cedar Dove, 7-Jezzy.  

Three-Year-Old Colt Pace  

Again, we are sticking with one of our elim choices, 8-Fashion Delight. Trainer Jim Campbell calls upon brother John to take the reins. Tim Tetrick got the colt into the final with a great late move, one more impressive due to being impeded when second over to a jumper. Though he has not lived up to potential this season after a rock-and-roll frosh campaign, he looks like he may be heading for a great older season and why not start that charge now? Exotic material: 5-Alsace Hanover, 6-Roll With Joe, 9-Big Bad John.  

Open Pace

All year these monstrous males have plowed and pounded their pacing abilities against one another of some of the best purses in the business. We had our share of scores in this division but suffered from some bias toward We Will See. Awkward at three, he really blossomed at four, able to take on older horses with the kind of speed that terrorizes any horse near him. We surrender, even though he lost his prep, and support him from post 1 to close the 2011 series. Look for a track and possibly four-year-old speed badge here; driver Pierce will let this guy loose. Exotic material: 2-Foiled Again, 4-Mach Dreamer, 5-Bettor Sweet.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The trot heard 'round the world

When foreign horses Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel arrive in Toronto for Saturday’s $600,000 Breeders Crown Trot at Woodbine Racetrack, the obstacles to victory go beyond merely facing five rivals.
Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel will need to recover from shipping overseas, get accustomed to unfamiliar surroundings and compete in a race where the style is likely to differ greatly from that in Europe. The last foreign invitee to win the Breeders Crown Trot was Italian star Varenne in 2001, when he triumphed with a world-record 1:51.1 mile at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
“There are a lot of things involved,” said U.S.-based trainer Trond Smedshammer, who is no stranger to shipping horses overseas. “Keeping them healthy, eating and drinking; it’s a stressful thing for them. Every horse and every ship is different. Some horses deal with it fine and actually like traveling. Other horses don’t deal well with it at all.”
Smedshammer’s Breeders Crown contender, Arch Madness, raced in Europe in May. He won the $480,647 Oslo Grand Prix in Norway and also won his elimination heat for Sweden’s prestigious Elitlopp before finishing sixth in the same-day final.
Arch Madness defeated Rapide Lebel, the fastest French trotter in history, in the Oslo Grand Prix. Rapide Lebel was second in the Elitlopp, losing by a nose to German trotter Brioni.
“He’s obviously a very strong horse,” Smedshammer said. “He can carry his speed for a long time, but so can the top horses on this side. I’m not sure how good or close to top form he is right now, so it’s kind of hard for me to give a real evaluation. You don’t know how they’re going to deal with shipping over here, either.
“On his best day he certainly is a very good horse.”
Ontario native John Bax, whose Breeders Crown contender Define The World also raced in the Oslo Grand Prix and Elitlopp, agreed. Define The World was fourth in the Oslo Grand Prix and finished sixth in his Elitlopp elimination.
“(Rapide Lebel) is fast and tough,” Bax said. “I think he can go all out for the whole mile. He’s a handful; I think he made a little bit of a break at the gate in Norway when we raced against him and spent the rest of the mile on the outside, but he was still around.”
Neither Smedshammer nor Bax saw Commander Crowe in person, but both know he should be respected. Commander Crowe won the first 23 races of his career and is the second-fastest Swedish-born trotter in history, as well as the European record-holder with a 1:50.4 mark.
“He’s a good horse or they wouldn’t bring him over,” Smedshammer said.
“I didn’t race against him, so I can only go on what the guys tell me,” Bax said. “We maybe underestimate the European stock. You go over there to race them and you see how good they really are. I think he’ll be heard from. But it’s hard to say how they’ll handle the shipping coming this way. We’ve got a home-court advantage.”
Both trotters are expected to arrive in Canada on Thursday. They are flying directly to Toronto from Amsterdam, then shipping to quarantine at Mohawk Racetrack.
“They say you either come in right before, or you come in a long way before; it doesn’t seem to work as well if you come in 10 days or a week before,” Bax said. “You can come in real close and maybe get away with it, or come in a month early and get acclimated.”
In addition to getting acclimated, Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel will face a different style of racing in North America. Both will be driven by their regular drivers, Eric Raffin behind Rapide Lebel and Chris Martens at the lines of Commander Crowe.
“These horses won’t be adapting to anybody’s style,” Bax said. “I don’t think there will be any giving and taking here. Racing two wide is nothing to them, whereas over here people get pretty worked up about it. I’ve seen horses over there go three wide so they can be first up; you’d never see that over here.
“Over there, I think it’s more about strategy and less about just speed. That makes it interesting.”
Smedshammer had Sweden’s top driver Bjorn Goop drive Arch Madness in Europe rather than regular pilot Brian Sears.
“(Racing style) comes into play a lot,” Smedshammer said. “They’re bringing their own drivers, which I think is a mistake. They would have a much better chance if they used some local drivers. The horses, they don’t know the style; it’s the drivers that are not familiar with the style.”
As for his own horse, Smedshammer is hopeful. Arch Madness has won eight of 14 races this year and earned $787,270. He was second to San Pail in the $766,500 Maple Leaf Trot and $300,000 Nat Ray Invitational. He was third in the Allerage Farm Trot, behind San Pail and Hot Shot Blue Chip, on Oct. 1 at Lexington’s Red Mile.
“He’s doing all right,” Smedshammer said. “He was probably not as good as he was this summer. I thought he raced OK in Lexington, but he hasn’t had a lot of races lately. I was trying to get a race for him last week, but I couldn’t get him in anywhere. But he’s healthy and he’s feeling good, so I’m sure he’ll show a decent performance.”
Define The World has won eight of 23 races this season and earned $317,596. He was fourth in the Maple Leaf Trot and is coming off a seventh-place finish in the open handicap at Woodbine on Oct. 15, a race won by San Pail.
“He’s as good as he can be,” Bax said. “I don’t know if that’s good enough, but we’re there. He’s a player, but there are a few that are better than him. I think it would be safe to say that everything would have to work out right, but you’ve got to be in it to have a shot. He’s got great gate speed, so he can usually get himself in position.”
San Pail is the unanimous No. 1-ranked horse in harness racing in the most recent Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown Top 10 poll. A two-time O’Brien Award winner as Canada’s champion older trotter, San Pail has won 27 of his last 31 starts and finished worse than second only once during that span.
“I think San Pail is still going to be the favorite, and deservedly so,” Smedshammer said. “But anything could happen. With those (foreign) horses, with those drivers, who knows what’s going to happen. It’s going to be an interesting race.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sophomore elims present looming longshots

On Saturday, Oct. 22, nine sophomore eliminations for the Breeders Crown finals are the features at Woodbine in Canada (there is also a single elim for the mare pacers). These battles for the berths in the finals’ fields on Oct. 29 have some great upset possibilities.  

In league with our TwinSpires blog this edition of “Countdown” offers selections that have the potential to win elims and boost exotics. Not being privy to closing odds at press time, we are assuming that our suggested contenders are outside the mainstream picks. We estimate 4-1 or up (unless otherwise specified) on all of them but, of course, guarantee nothing. You can judge as you watch and wager on TwimSpires and you can follow us on Twitter and the blog for late updates on both evenings.  

Saturday, Oct. 22

Race 1, 3yo filly trot

Jezzy has earned her way here and still remains one of the best in this division. However, she fell out of favor with the crowds after her winning streak ceased. This could be a wonderful occasion to wager on her because of that, since her odds will be nowhere near the measly amounts she offered when hot. She has the cleanest gait of ‘em all, actually, so you can count on her trotting her best. 

Race 2, 3yo colt trot

The two supplements, also bound to be the two favorites (Daylon Magician and Dejarmbro) are on the outside and although I am not a stickler for post positions as burdens, I think these two may have a bit of a problem working out a win. Chapter Seven, therefore, may go off higher than we may have estimated after his recent win. I would sat at 2-1 and up he is worth the win wager. Also, if you are going exactas, toss in Spectator K for the second spot; he could get place by default and ignite a big number.  

Race 3, 3yo colt trot

We are again faced with the gait problems of this division, so we are going to look at two scenarios. First, the dead-on favorite and best in this group—when on gait—is Manofmanymissions. He won last year at two and could romp in the elim and the final but not at a price. The backup, if he wins or not, is Whiskey Tax. In the Hambletonian, “Tax” took advantage of every other mishap in the field and got second. He is apt to do it again if “Man” stays straight. If Man breaks, you may be looking at a huge win price with Tax.  

Race 4, 3yo filly trot

We were all over Pantholops when she sizzled at the Meadows for a $30-plus-win price. She had a tough “Futurity” and then got stung with Bold And Fresh finally fired. We cannot let her go here because this is going to be a serious attack and she should be at her best on the track, which is enough to beat these, and her price should be promising. If “Bold” goes the way of all gallopers, beware of Magic Wheel, a local Kadabra product that may do well being tested against better. A big exacta looms with her second to “Pan.”  

Race 6, mare pace

This is not a field to search for an overlay but a qualified longshot chance belongs to Maureen Rocks. She hasn’t been able to shove any of the classier gals over but she is always getting attention from bettors because she is, ultimately, an aggressive mare. I would think the public will dismiss her (she is 8-1 on the morning line [ML]).  

Race 7, 3yo filly pace

Swinging Beauty has the perfect style to finally take advantage of some tired stretch-pacers and may do just that in the weaker of the two soph-filly elims. You cannot knock her in this field, where the ML favorites are all suspect. Her 6-1 ML may be a conservative estimate to her closing odds.  

Race 9, 3yo filly pace

Rocklamation is one of those exacta add-ons, never getting the edge to beat rivals but cashing a lot of check trying. Her 4-1 ML seems generous, as this field has to deal with the return of See You At Peelers, who’s bound to get a lot of attention in the wagering. Still, “Rock” could get her way in one scenario that may play out, so why not take a shot at a legitimate overlay.   

Race 10, 3yo colt pace

Custard The Dragon has not emptied his tank and may be up for a huge mile with the big money and fame on the line. He qualified well after being scratched, which could have been the reason he began to falter after some magnificent miles. He has a lot going for him in the field, a group he can beat on his best day under most circumstances. His ML is 7-1 and we had him both times he won big this season at those kind of odds.   

Race 11, 3yo colt pace

Fashion Delight had a rough sophomore season but has come around well late. He could be peaking now as he rolls into what looks like it could be a monstrous older-pacer campaign. This division has been fickle all year and you have to be crazy to wager on the favorite here to win. Go with Tetrick driving Jim Campbell’s under-rated colt for the upset.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Freshmen outsiders hold keys to ‘Crown’ cash

On Friday, Oct. 21, five freshmen eliminations for the Breeders Crown finals are the features at Woodbine in Canada. On Oct. 22, sophomores are the highlights with nine elims. The battles for the berths in the finals’ fields on Oct. 29 are always fierce contests that can produce upsets and stuff bankrolls. 

In league with our TwinSpires blog this edition of “Countdown” offers selections that have the potential to win elims and boost exotics. Not being privy to closing odds at press time, we are assuming that our suggested contenders are outside the mainstream picks. We estimate 4-1 or up on all of them but, of course, guarantee nothing. You can judge as you watch and wager on TwinSpires and you can follow us on Twitter and the blog for late updates on both evenings. 

Friday, Oct. 21

Race 1, 2yo colt trot

Classic Conway, 15-1 on the morning line (ML), should offer anything near that for a wager. He has the style and the current form to topple the big-noise horse From Above. That one also brought us pre-elim pay with two great wins, just as “Conway” scored last time. These two wreak of exacta magic.

Race 2, 2yo colt trot

Appomattox is a Frank Antonacci-trained colt that is listed on the ML at 20-1 with Tetrick driving. This is not such a sterling group that long odds are necessary for Mr. Antonacci’s steed, who I am sure is poised to stay afloat and surprise. Definitely an exacta member as well as a win bet.
Race 3, 2yo filly trot

In the single elim for this division (two gals not here show up for final), Personal Style is a legitimate outsider and candidate to beat 4-5 ML choice Check Me Out. At 8-1 on the ML with Ron Pierce steering, I cannot see how Richard Norman’s filly will be out of the mix sans a misstep.  

Race 4, 2yo colt pace

Hurrikane Kingcole was a darling for bettors a few back. Once he got into trouble they dropped him like a dead dictator’s body. But the colt has been priming for this event since some minor problems. This elim is the time to support him. His ML of 10-1 may be a conservative estimate of his post-time odds, since everyone and his uncle will back A Rocknroll Dance.  

Race 6, 2yo colt pace

Our shortest ML price at 9-2 is Machapelo. He may not be as long a shot as most we recommend watching on Friday but we think he has much potential and can live up to the speedy style of his sire. In other words, he is blossoming and can perform a late-season primer to a productive sophomore season.

Check in for Saturday's picks soon.

Check out the season's news for eligibles at

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The eliminations are elating examples of wonderful wagering

The ultimate harness series, the championship Breeders Crowns, this year at Woodbine in Canada, presents all 12 finals on the same card this Oct. 29. The week before, however, on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22, Woodbine hosts a slew of elimination miles to prepare the fields for the finals. 

These are powerful races that often are dismissed by players, when in fact they can offer two important factors. First, they can offer good prices, overlays if you will, featuring horses that will make the final but are winning the elim off a good trip, a smart drive or any other fortunate situation. In other words, the best horses can go on to win the finals but may not win the elims.  

Plus, if there is more than one elim, the really hot horse in the division can only race in one elim, leaving the other open for an outside contender, an overlooked entry reaching his or her peak. In fact, the more elims raced in each division, the better the wagers that surface.  

Next, watching elims closely can reveal a surprise winner of a final. The trip handicappers are putting on their dear slayer hats and investigating every move in the elims. Horses getting stuck in traffic, making huge but losing brushes and other such common causes for bad performance lines in a race are the meat of the mighty bettor. In the past, this is how we have nailed some giant “Crown” final winners that few were willing to back. 

And then there is Woodbine

Of the two major Ontario-harness-circuit tracks, Woodbine is the least speed-biased, allowing for horses to make up good ground in the stretch. Good horses having troubled trips in the first half often make up for it with huge, late moves, sometimes uncharacteristically closing to get into the picture, if not win. Outsiders that have saved some ground use their one-brush punch for upsets.  

As always is the case in harness racing, a single horse in a field takes most of the win money and second, third and fourth choices tend to offer high returns, many of them based on odds far higher than the horses’ chances. So we put into play our usual search for the outsider-contender, the horse that can win at better odds than its chances. 

It takes courage in any race to buck a 4-5 shot (and that could be high for a harness favorite) but over and over again the best plays come against those horses. In the Crown, as well, the fields have a tendency to be more equal than the odds wagered upon the entrants deserve.  

So when a strong field of horses goes to post—and how much stronger can you get than the top divisional members that roll with the Crown?—you need that bravery to make money. Get your betting accounts in order, then and be ready for the Crown elims wagering experience.  

We are covering the events live those two nights, with special tweets and insider comments and info, through Twitter, as you watch and wager at TwinSpires. Thanks to the Hambletonian Society, we will have a direct communication with Woodbine sources for the best coverage available on the Internet.  

Next week we will be engaged in offering handicapping advice when the elim fields are revealed.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Official Top-Ten Hopefuls Could Offer A Wagering Bonanza

The Oct. 3 Hambletonian/Breeders Crown Standardbred Poll represents 21 weeks of performances from all harness divisions, according to the opinions of industry. With about three weeks left until the Breeders Crown elim, five of the dozen divisions are do not have members on this list and only one horse is not eligible to a “Crown” race.  

Of the two divisions that have a pair of representatives in the Top Ten, only Manofmanymissions (Yankee Glide) in the soph-colt-trotting league appears to be heading for a Crown elim. The Kadabra-sired Daylon Magician has beaten the best of his mates each time they challenged him. It is reported that the colt will continue to race in the lucrative Ontario-sired-based finals but as of this writing there is no word if his connections will supplement to a Crown elim. 

These horses will be wagered upon heavily in the October elims and due to this high profile will provide bettors with choices that include any number of other performers that will offer better odds. Let’s look at the reasons any of them can be beaten. 

San Pail will have great advantages. One of these edges is Woodbine. Though he has beaten his division foes over the border, he will be very much at home here. But that is not a lock. Arch Madness ruled this division earlier in the season and now he is off the Top-Ten list. Still, he ranks as a threat.  

The foreign contingency will also influence the wagering. Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel have accepted invitations to the final and the last three winners of the event—Enough Talk, Lucky Jim and Corleone Kosmos—are also available, giving San Pail the challenge of his career. 

We Will See has been an enormous success at four, being rivaled by older pacers and making them look old. But he works hard for his wins and that means any matter of inches during a trip can present a loss from veterans like Foiled Again (number 10 on the list now but earlier a leader). This has been a competitive division throughout a long 2011 campaign, so don’t hand the purse to “See” just yet. As for the Crown champ, indeed, we will see.

See You At Peelers (Bettor’s Delight) is training under medical supervision, being treated with medicine for a manageable heart problem. Whether she gets into the events or not is a decision pending. Don’t be surprised if she returns with verve and a fresh feeling that makes her look best again in a division taken over recently by fillies that were inferior. 

Big Bad John (Western Hanover) and Roll With Joe (Cam’s Card Shark) are, in our opinion, very close to one another in talent. However, they are clearly part of a crop that has not produced a single dominant colt. These two readily beat one another or others of equal talent, making the wagering on this division’s elims bet-worthy.  

If Up The Credit (Western Terror) can win a $1-million race and Custard The Dragon (Dragon Again) can roll better than “Joe,” then the gelding, Alsace Hanover (The Panderosa), has a shot. As well, deal some chances to others not on the Top Ten: Hugadragon (Dragon Again), Powerful Mist (Powerful Toy), Rockabillie (Rocknroll Hanover), Rollitwithharry (Rocknroll Hanover), Shadyshark Hanover (Cam’s Card Shark), Westwardho Hanover (Dragon Again) and even a return visit from Fashion Delight (Bettor’s Delight). It’s open season for winners in the soph-colt pacing elims.  

Meanwhile, only one freshman makes the grade, the unbeaten American Jewel (American Ideal). She is clearly the best of the green gals but can she stay unbeaten through the Crowns? Her split, should there be more than one elim in this division, may be the only that I would consider passing.   

Manofmanymissions (Yankee Glide) trots or he doesn’t trot and no one knows why or when. That has been a problem throughout the soph-colt trotting season. When he is floating there seems to be no other that can take a win from him, however, the speculation every time he takes flight is intense. If “Daylon” gets in, there could be more trouble for “Man” than he can handle. So this Crown challenge, with Daylon or not, is still a wagering probable. 

Dreamfair Eternal is a great pacing mare but she has off nights that behoove the brightest of handicappers. We beat her with Anndrovette and you may do so again at the same luscious price. We nabbed Laughandbehappy most recently and she has beat both of them.  

By and large, this season’s Breeders Crown, with elims on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22, will be presenting some fine wagering opportunities if this Top Ten list is any indication of public opinion. You can bet it all and follow our tweets for last-minute action as we cover all the Crowns live on the Internet in league with TwinSpires and the Hambletonian Society. In the meantime, there are more preps and there will be more news, so continue to follow this blog and our two weekly TwinSpires harness blogs.